Tag Archives: Recipe

Have a Cool, Cool Summer

Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup. A recipe for summer without the tyranny of measurements.
Chilled Out Soup Eaten Al Fresco

Things are hotting up globally. Most of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, and things weren’t much different for the Southern Hemisphere back in their summer. On days like these, no one wants to introduce more heat into the home by turning on the hob. On the hottest days, it’s even too hot to light the barbecue, or grill, if you prefer.

This recipe has been inspired by both the summer heat, and a recent trip to Madrid, where we had Gazpacho or Salmorejo with almost every meal. I also really like a good Ajo Blanco, but sadly this isn’t the Big Guy’s favourite, so we have this less often.

It’s also the height of the growing season, and my garden is straining with all of the cucumbers that one single vine is currently churning out. There is nothing better, or more tasty than a freshly picked cucumber that has been gently warmed by the sun. I need something to do with them that isn’t slicing them for sandwiches or chopping them into a salad. Of course, I’m romanticising this simple fruit. If the only cucumbers you can get hold of come straight from the chiller cabinet in the supermarket, that will also be perfectly acceptable.

Today, I’m bringing you a light and refreshing no-cook cold soup. This recipe is also a bit of a freecipe, since it will be delicious no matter how much of each ingredient you have. Hot days are not meant for the constraints of weights and measures.

I also want you to feel free to change up the ingredients to suit what you have, and what you like. I guess the main elements of cucumber, yoghurt and herbs are required, but use whatever yoghurt you like – dairy or plant-based. I suspect it will be rather good with a tangy yoghurt made from goat milk, if that’s your thing. If you don’t like fennel, leave it out. If you have mint and basil instead of the herbs listed here, also fine. The chilling time can be substituted by a 10-minute blast in the freezer, by adding ice cubes to the soup, or a combination of both. It’s hot; just do what you like.

Freecipe: Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup

Serves: The amount I use here serves 4 as a light lunch or 6 as a starter. If you use fewer ingredients, your servings may vary
Prep Time: 10 minutes, plus as much chilling time as you have

Ingredients

A couple of large (English) cucumbers
Half a bulb fennel, core removed
A small bunch of herbs. I used parsley, dill, and tarragon. Any herbs of your choice will be good here
A small shallot, or about a quarter of an onion, or some spring onions
A garlic clove
Citrus juice to taste. I used the juice of half a lemon. Limes or finger limes would also work well. I suspect yuzu might be interesting. Experiment with whatever citrus in whatever proportions you have
Sunflower seeds or soaked cashews (optional). I chose not to use them in the version photographed here
Natural yoghurt, quark or fromage frais of your choice. Plant-based or the dairy version is up to you. Whichever you use, use the thickest version available, such as Greek-style yoghurt.
A good glug of the tastiest extra virgin olive oil that you have. I used about 5 tbsp for this amount of vegetables.
Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

Slice each cucumber in half lengthways. Remove the seeds by pressing a teaspoon into the pulp and running it down the length of each cucumber half. I set the pulp aside, and ate it with a spoon, having first sprinkled over a little salt, whilst waiting for the soup to chill.

Chop the cucumber, fennel, herbs, shallot and garlic as roughly as your best blender will allow. I have a high-speed blender, but you can also use a stick blender. If using a stick, you’ll probably need to chop the veggies a bit finer to start with.

I personally loathe raw alliums in my food, so I took some of the sulphur compounds away by pouring hot water from a fairly recently boiled kettle over the chopped shallot and garlic. I find this is less important if I were to use spring onions, and honestly, shallots are also much less pungent than their oniony cousins. Skip this step altogether if the raw onion thing doesn’t bother you.

Pulse blend everything you’ve just chopped, the citrus juice and the olive oil to break it down a bit before you add the yoghurt. Once the chopped stuff is broken down, add as much yoghurt or alternative as you want and blend it until smooth. Obviously, the cucumber will provide a lot of water. If you want a thicker soup, add more yoghurt.

For extra protein, and a thicker consistency you can also add neutral-flavoured nuts or seeds, such as soaked cashews or sunflower seeds. If you decide to use these, add them at the same time as the veggies and pulse alongside the rest.

Once everything is smooth, season well with salt and pepper. If you want to be fancy, use white pepper, so you don’t have black specks in your finished soup. Otherwise freshly ground black pepper will be just fine. Remember that the colder the soup is upon serving, the more seasoning you will need.

Chill for as much time as you have. Overnight is best to allow the flavour to develop, but if you haven’t been that organised, as I wasn’t today when I made the soup, make it when you decide you want it; it will be fine. Today I gave it four hours in the fridge. If you only decide that all you want to eat for the meal that’s pending right now is this soup, then give it a quick blast in your freezer, and/or lob a few ice cubes in at either the blending stage or into the finished dish, depending on whether or not your blender can cruch ice. You will need to compensate for the additional liquid with more herbs, citrus and yoghurt.

Serving Suggestion

How you serve this soup depends entirely on your context. For me today, it was a quick and cooling lunch when I was too warm to do much. I had it with some lovely crusty bread, some extra finely chopped cucumber and fennel and a few fronds of dill.

I always recommend an extra drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil that you used before. You could top it with another dollop of yoghurt, croutons baked with the same herbs that you used in the soup, and many other things. If serving for a particularly posh occasion, some edible flowers will be a pretty addition. Maybe you want to add a little chopped boiled egg. The beauty of a freecipe is that you can also garnish with whatever you feel is appropriate.

The only compulsory serving suggestion is that this dish is best served on a sunny day, having had the freedom of not needing to turn on any equipment that will add to the heat of the moment.

Storage

This cucumber and fennel soup will store well in the fridge for 3-4 days, so you can make it in advance if you keep an eye on the weather forecast.

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We’re Going on a Bear Garlic Hunt

Allium ursinum or wild garlic, ransoms or bear garlic carpeting the forest floor
We’ll Have to Go Through It!

Allium ursinum goes by many names; Ramsons in North America, wild garlic, in some places, bear garlic in many others – which is derived from its Latin name. In the Netherlands, we call it daslook. It’s native to temperate parts of Europe and Asia and naturalised in many other temperate regions of the world. It grows in deciduous woodland, where it prefers damp conditions, so you can often find it along banks of rivers and streams.

Right now, it’s high season, and wild garlic is abundant and verdant. It’s also in flower, so there is no longer any risk of mistaking it for anything else.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday with a good friend in the forest where we were looking for a bunch of wild garlic. We didn’t have to look that far, to be honest. When searching for wild garlic, I can often smell it before I see it, but this time, I didn’t need to engage my nose at all. The forest was carpeted in green, with a cloud of white flowers gently bobbing in the breeze above it.

Of course, if you’re going foraging yourself please operate on a safety-first basis. As well as being guided by your senses, it’s best to follow these simple rules.

Allium ursinum, bear garlic, wild garlic with it's typical globes of white stellate flowers. Covered in spring debris.. All parts of this spring plant are edible.
Starry Lights!

Wild garlic is such a lovely treat. It’s far less pungent than its more bulbous cousin and is better on the breath. I love the stuff and make a lot of recipes using it, including this delightful recipe for a wild garlic tart which is great for a picnic or late spring party. You can also make herb butter or cream cheese with the leaves. The flowers are great as a pretty garnish in salads or other light dishes, and the flower stalks can be used anywhere you might find chives.

And knowing a spot means that I don’t have to let them take over my own garden, because they are absolutely prolific. They’re also a great entry point for beginner foragers – just remember if you don’t smell garlic, then don’t eat them.

Wild garlic loves to grow under trees. As such, at this time of year, it’s often covered in pollen and the scales that previously covered the buds of the newly-emerged leaves. This kind of debris is evident on the leaves. Don’t let that put you off. It’s completely normal and rinses off easily. If you pick from the centre of the patch, you won’t need to worry about dog urine that much, but do avoid leaves with bird poo on them.

Today, I’m sharing a pesto recipe that I’ve veganised.

I really recommend giving wild garlic a go. Subtlely flavoured, easy to find and to pick, and if nothing else you get a couple of hours of forest bathing in. What’s not to love?

Wild Garlic or bear garlic pasto, ready to use.
I’ve Got A Jam Jar Full of Pretty Green

Recipe: Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes a jar of pesto
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus the time well spent wandering about in the woods

Ingredients

The amounts given below are for one jar of pesto. If you’ve picked more or less garlic, you can adjust the ratio of the other ingredients accordingly for a balanced pesto.

200g wild garlic leaves
Salt and pepper
100 g whole almonds
Zest of one lemon, reserving the juice for when you serve, where appropriate.
120 ml of extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover

Method

Rinse the wild garlic thoroughly in cold water. You can leave it to soak for a while in the sink if you like.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil.

When the wild garlic is clean, chop the leaves into three or four pieces across the width of the leaf. This is just to make it easier to blend them later. You can skip this step if you’re in a pinch.

Put the wild garlic into the boiling water and bring it back to a boil, along with any other herbs you’re going to use. You want to blanch the leaves for a few seconds. The leaves will brighten, and the midrib will become floppy. You may need to blanch the leaves in batches, depending on how much pesto you’re making.

Blanching helps the pesto to keep its verdant green colour. Unblanched leaves will tend to brown a little over time. They’re fine to eat, but look much less appealing.

Once you see the subtle colour change, remove the leaves from the water with a slotted spoon, and put them in a sieve. Rinse briefly with cold water to stop the leaves from cooking further. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan that you blanched the wild garlic in, lightly cook the almonds. Add the almonds to the water and return to the boil for 4-5 minutes. Drain them and set aside to cool slightly.

If the almonds that you’re using had their skins on, they are easily removed at this stage. The nuts will pop out of their skins readily if you apply a little pressure to the base once they’re cool enough to handle. If you’re using pre-skinned almonds, then just leave them to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Once cooled, add the nuts to your blender. I find the mini processor attachment that came with my stick blender to be the best size for this amount of pesto, but any blender will do. Blitz the nuts a little. At this stage, they need to be in smallish bits.

Squeeze the wild garlic leaves to remove as much of the water as possible. Too much water will dilute the subtle flavour of the garlic too much and will affect how well it will store.

Add the wild garlic to the blender and pulse a couple of times to combine with the nuts. Add the lemon zest and about half the oil and blitz until the pesto is an even green colour. Stir through the rest of the olive oil and taste for seasoning. You will definitely need freshly ground black pepper, and you’ll probably need to add a bit of salt at this stage.

Slowly add the remaining oil, whilst blitzing a bit more, until the pesto is about as thick as yoghurt. You may not need to use all of the oil I’ve recommended here, it depends on how oily your nuts are too.

Put the pesto into a sterilised jam jar. Cover the top with a little bit more olive oil to form a seal to the air, to help the pesto keep longer.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

Of course, you can make wild garlic pesto with parmesan or another finely grated cheese if you like, but I’m trying to be a lot more plant-based these days.

You could also choose to use different nuts. Lightly-toasted pine nuts would be fine, for a more traditional Genoese-style sauce. Hazelnuts could be an interesting addition. Use the whole nut, gently roasted in the oven until the aroma fills the air. Then rub the brown skins off as best you can with an old, dry, clean tea towel. I say use an old towel because the skins can stain the cloth a bit. You’ll also probably not get all the skins off entirely, so don’t bother striving for perfection. There is no need to blanch either type of nut in this case.

If you like, you can also add other herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, or basil. They’ll need blanching in a similar way to the wild garlic, and squeezing out before adding it to the blender.

This pesto is perfect over pasta. You can add it to soups and salad dressings, or even to brighten up a sandwich. If you eat meat, you can use it to coat a little fish or chicken breast before you grill or bake it, or you could use it as a marinade before frying your fish. It’s especially excellent with salmon or other oily fish.

Stir a little lemon juice through the pesto before serving. The amount of lemon juice that you’ll need will vary with the application – you’ll need a little to season it if you’re smearing it in a sandwich, perhaps 1/2 tsp or so. Over pasta, you’ll need the juice of at least half a lemon. Adjust it to your own taste.

I have another couple of recipes that I’ll be using it in over the next few days, which I’ll be sharing with you soon. I’d love to hear where you would use this pesto in the comments.

How to Store

The pesto keeps well in the fridge. If you don’t use all of the pesto at once, then make sure to add a little more olive oil to create an air seal over the pesto. This will help you to keep it for up to two weeks.

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Veganuary Day 14: A Proper Sunday Dinner

A proper vegan Sunday lunch of Root Vegetable amd Ale Pie, roast potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and peas, covered in a rich vegan onion gravy.
Sunday Lunch with all the Trimmings

Today was a great day. We were able to have guests for the second time in two years (the first being this New Year’s Eve). The Big Guy decided upon a pretty quick breakfast of protein pancakes served with oatmeal yoghurt and maple syrup for speed. I’ve mentioned that I don’t often like sweet breakfasts, but these felt like a treat.

Our guests arrived in time for a hearty Sunday lunch. We would have a roast dinner every Sunday when I lived with mum and dad. My parents still have a roast every week, although I haven’t really kept up with the tradition. When I decided on the menu for today, I was feeling a little nostalgic, so decided that I’d do a vegan version of a Sunday lunch. Though this time with a pie as the centrepiece, instead of a roasted joint of meat. I share the pie recipe below.

We served the pie with all of the trimmings – steamed tenderstem broccoli, peas cooked briefly in boiling water, roast potatoes, and a home made onion gravy. I didn’t really get photos of the gravy process, but I will share that in another post when I have chance to remake it.

I’d also invited our guests to stay for an evening meal. I’d seen an article about a vegan pizza with a white bean dip instead of a tomato sauce, topped with roasted butternut, thinly sliced apple and caramelised onions. I also wanted to experiment with pizza in our Ninja Foodi. Pizza always goes down well with kids, so what better excuse than to give my version a go for the occasion? I made a batch of Dan Lepard’s Pizza Dough and proofed it in the fridge, so it would be ready for this evening’s adventures.

Recipe: Root Veg and Ale Pie

Serves 4-6 people
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1 hour

This hearty pie is great as part of a Sunday lunch, and would fit as well as a weeknight meal, served with chips, or mashed potatoes.

I made this as a pot pie, using shop-bought puff pastry. It would be as good made into a fully-enclosed pie, but if you’re going to do that, I recommend blind baking the base, because it will go soggy otherwise.

If you’re making your own, either a shortcrust pastry or a rough puff pastry, using vegan margarine will serve it well.

Ingredients

1/2 medium celariac root, peeled and diced into 1cm cube
Oil for frying
15 pearl onions (also called silver onions), peeled but kept whole
4 medium carrots, cut into 2 cm chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into 1cm slices
1 leek both the white and green parts, halved and washed, then cut into 1cm slices
6-8 garlic cloves, papery skins removed but otherwise kept whole (optional)
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
2 tbsp plain/all purpose flour
1 tbsp tomato purée
350 ml any dark ale or stout. I used Old Speckled Hen for this pie
Good quality vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. I used about 300ml of my tomato-based sumptuous stock from scraps
1-2 tsp Marmite or Vegemite
Salt & pepper to taste
1 portion vegan pastry – you can use shop-bought puff pastry, or home-made shortcrust or rough puff pastry
A little plant milk for brushing the pastry

Method

Once you’ve chopped the celeriac, put it in a large bowl and cover with cold water and a couple of drops of lemon juice or vinegar.

In a large dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pan, heat some oil over a medium-low heat.

When the oil is shimmering, add the pearl onions. Cover the pan and cook until brown and caramelised on all sides. Stir occassionaly, to achieve the all round colour. Once the maillard reaction has happened, and you have pretty even colour, remove to a separate large dish with a slotted spoon.

At this point, you might need to add a little more oil. Add the carrots to the pan, and sweat them off, again not disturbing them too much. Cook the carrots until they’ve started to brown a little on the outside. Remove to the same bowl as the onions.

Check to see if there’s enough oil in the pan, and cook off the celery in a similar fashion. Once again, you’re looking to soften and slightly colour the celery, before removing to the vegetable dish.

You may need to cook the celeraic in batches, because if the pan is too crowded you won’t get them to brown nicely. Drain well before use. Check the pan for oil, and add the celeriac cubes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan and allow the celeriac to brown, stirring occassionally. They’re done when they’re fairly evenly browned on all sides. Remove to the bowl with the other vegetables, and continue to cook the batches until they’re all done.

Check the pan for oil for the final time, and lower the heat a little. Sweat off the leek and the garlic cloves, if you’re using them. Add the bay leaf, thyme and season with a little salt and pepper.

When the leek is soft and silky, and the green parts have become a bright chartreuse, add the flour. Cook out whilst stirring for one or two minutes, until the flour has toasted and turned a light brown colour.

Add the tomato purée and cook this out for about a minute, until the purée has darkened slightly

Whilst stirring or whisking constantly, add the beer slowly. Whisk out any lumps of flour. Then stir in 1 tsp of Marmite. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat.

Return all of the vegetables to the pan and add enough vegetable stock so the liquid reaches the bottom of the top layer of vegetables. give everything a good stir, and taste to see if you need to adjust the Marmite.

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

Cover the pan, and cook the vegetables in this broth for 20 mins.

Remove the lid and look at the gravy. You want the gravy to be slightly thicker than the gravy you pour on your sunday lunch. The same consistency as unwhipped double cream. If the gravy is too liquid, you can turn up the heat and reduce it down a bit with the vegetables in, or you can thicken it with about a tablespoon of cornflour slaked in cold water.

Once the gravy is the right consistency, taste and adjust for seasoning, and remove from the heat. Remember to remove the bay leaf and any remains of the thyme stalks.

Roll out your pastry and cut to the size of your pie dish. If you want to make a fully encased pie, roll out the bottom layer, and blind bake it for 10 minutes, then roll out the lid.

Fill the pie dish with the vegetable filling. Cover the pie with your pastry layer. For the fully enclosed pie, brush the cooked bottom rim with a little plant milk, before covering, then crimp the top pastry layer shut over the top of the filling.

Use the offcuts of the pastry to decorate your pie lid, if you wish. Get the two layers of pastry to stick to each other by brushing the base of the decoration with a little bit of plant milk before placing it on the lid.

Brush the top of the pie lid with plant milk to help it get a nice even brown all over. Pierce two or three slits into the pastry to allow steam to vent during cooking.

Bake in your preheated oven until the pastry is nice and brown and crisp all over. If you’re using warm filling, this takes 15 minutes in an air fryer, or half an hour in a normal oven. If you’re using chilled filling, bake at 160°C/320°F, which will take 15 minutes longer for either cooking method.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

You can really use any vegetables you like in this pie. I think mushrooms would be a really welcome addition. I didn’t use them today, because one of my guests doesn’t like them. Parsnips, salsify, roasted pumpkin, fennel or sweet potatoes would also go really well in this pie. Whatever vegetables you use, take the time to get some colour on them, because it really makes a big difference to the flavour.

How to Store

This versatile pie can be made up to four days in advance. Cook up the pie filling, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Make some pastry and store in a bag, or tightly wrapped in the fridge. Store both elements separately.

The pie will freeze really well. You can freeze the filling and the pastry separately, you can pre-make the pie and freeze the whole thing before cooking at 180°C/350°F from frozen for an hour.

The cooked pie or the cooked pie filling will keep in the fridge for at least a week. If you just store the pie filling, you can make more pies for a really easy weeknight dinner.




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Veganuary Day 10: Around the World

My Favourite Sandwich

The old British classic baked beans on toast was in order today. Heinz beans are available in the supermarkets here. I actually find Branston’s a superior bean, and also less sweet. But it’s difficult to get back to the UK at the moment for global travel reasons, and then to get stuff back through customs for ridiculous political ones. So I have to take what I can get. Served over any kind of bread, it’s a quintessential vegan dish that everyone enjoys.

The Big Guy and I appreciate a good sandwich. There are few as satisfying, and vibrant in both colour and flavour as a Banh Mi. Mostly, they’ll contain pulled pork or shredded chicken. They come conveniently wrapped in a crisp baguette, so there’s no waste. Great for lunch on the go.

A block of tempeh

Banh mi require a bit of texture in the main filling, so a vegan version has to be about tempeh. The fermented beans are not Vietnamese, but I think give the sandwich more heft than would be possible with tofu. You can decide differently; the marinade I give below would work just as well for tofu.

At the start of the month, I’d done what I thought was suitable prep – I’d made sure to shop for vegan essentials, like quinoa, nutritional yeast, chia seeds and so on. I’d made sure to get some stock made. The one thing I overlooked was what could I replace fish sauce with? In hindsight, I feel a bit foolish, since I knew this month would feature a lot of South East Asian food, and most cuisines use some version of fish sauce to provide piquancy and umami in many dishes.

Tempeh in a vegan Vietnamese-style marinade
Six in a bed of marinade

More prepared vegans than I would already have bought some coconut aminos, or maybe a kecup manis or a mushroom soy sauce. But lunch time was fast approaching, I wanted to marinate my tempeh, and I didn’t have any of these things. So I substituted with what I did have – kombu. I rinsed it under cold water until it was pliable, making it easier to slice really thinly. The seaweeds will all lend umami and a different kind of salty quality than the soy sauce, which I also used. It turned out to be an excellent marinade. This will feature on regular rotation in our house, long after veganuary is over.

Dinner tonight was a reapeat of the Chickpea and Spinach Stew with Orzo from yesterday. This is one stew that isn’t improved the next day. I’d recommend eating this fresh, if you’re going to make it.

A mixed, jewel-coloured vegetable speedy pickle with red cabbag, cucmber, red onion,and carrot
Jewel-Coloured Pickle Mix

Recipe: Vegan Banh Mi

Makes 4 Sandwiches
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time 5 minutes plus marination time

Ingredients

75g Tempeh

For the Marinade

2 tbsp of a neutral oil, such as sunflower, canola, groundnut
Juice of half a lime
2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer parts removed and finely sliced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1 strip of kombu of approx 2cm x 5cm, finely sliced (or 1tsp fish sauce)
2 tsp light brown muscovado sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
2 tbsp soy sauce

For the Pickled Vegetables

Most hard, crunchy vegetables will work here, as long as the pieces are really small
I used:
1 carrot, grated
A quarter of a red onion, sliced as thinly as I could get it
A quarter of a cucumber, deseeded and cut into small matchsticks
Red cabbage, passed 3-5 times over a mandoline on the thinnest setting
Other things that would be good:
Kohl rabi
White cabbage
Radishes
Apple
Spring onion
Raw celariac, grated
Red bell pepper
For the amount of vegetables give, you will also need:
1-2 tsp salt
2 tsp light muscovado sugar, or palm sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
Scale up or down if you use more or less vegetables for your pickle

To Make the Sandwich:

1 tbsp of a neutral oil to cook the tempeh
A baguette, cut into four and then cut in half lengthways
Fresh mint & coriander leaves
Sriracha sauce (optional)
Vegan mayonnaise (optional)

Method

Slice the tempeh widthways. You’ll need about 1cm thick slices.

In an airtight container, mix together all of the marinade ingredients.

Put the tempeh slices into the marinade, turning to make sure each side is covered. Seal the container and set aside. It can marinate for a minimum of one hour, but longer is better if you can.

Make a really quick pickle with the vegetables. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will pickle. Place these small pieces of whatever vegetable you’re using in a mixing bowl.

Sprinkle over both the salt and the sugar. Massage them into the vegetables by scrunching it all together in your hand. You’ll find that the veggies will quickly moisten, as the salt and sugar starts to draw out their moisture. Add the vinegar, give it a good stir and set aside.

Banh Mi are best served on fresh baguette. But you can refresh a day old one if you need to by splashing a little water on the crust, and rubbing it in with your hand. Warm it in hot oven, or use the air fryer on grill mode at 200°C for five minutes. Your bread will be lovely and crusty all over again.

Whether or not you need to heat your baguette, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan. You want the pan to be pretty warm. Add a tbsp of your neutral oil and turn the heat down to medium – low.

Remove any lemongrass or kombu clinging to the tempeh slices. Cook in batches, turning frequently. Do not press the tempeh to the pan. The tempeh is done when it’s crispy on the outside, but not burnt. Be careful – the sugar in the marinade will burn quickly, so don’t walk away. Drain on kitchen towel before putting in your sandwich.

If you want to use a vegan mayonnaise, then spread generously on both the cut sides of the bread. On the bottom, put a heaping layer of the pickled vegetables, then the cooked tempeh, then the fresh mint and coriander leaves. Add sriracha to your taste, or leave it off altogether if you don’t like hot and spicy.

Serving Suggestions

You can pickle any crunchy vegetables that you like. In season and fresh is best where possible.
If you don’t like fresh coriander, you can substitute for any soft herb you like. I particularly like thai basil, sweet basil and parsley instead. If you can get hold of perilla (sometimes called shiso) that would be good, Or you could just stick with mint if you like.

How to Store

The tempeh will be fine in the marinade for a week in the fridge. This would be perfect to meal prep at the start of the week for quick lunches.
The pickles can be made the evening before, as long as you drain off the liquid before storing. Otherwise you risk them getting too soggy. Store in an airtight jar.
Banh mi should always be assembled fresh after cooking the tempeh.

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Veganuary Day 4: A Speedy Soup

Harissa and Chickpea soup, served with sourdough toast and hummus plus a wedge of lemon for the soup.
Old School Soup

It seems if you’re a vegan that prefers savoury breakfasts, the usual staple is a tofu scramble. There are as many variations of this as there are overnight oats. Maybe. I haven’t actually counted them or anything. We started our exploration with this tofu scramble with dijon. The piquancy of mustard and dijon was always going to be a winner for me, the addition of tarragon is a welcome bonus. It’s a pretty good substitute for scrambled eggs, and almost as quick. I like my eggs on the softer side, the silken tofu isn’t as soft, but it’s a good breakfast in its own right.

I have several soups in rotation that I’ve been making since I was a student. I was not such a good cook back then, and needed to rely on easy and cheap recipes. Today I dragged harissa and chickpea soup from the memory banks for lunch. Like my Smoky Winter Root Soup, I know I got this from a recipe somewhere, but like that soup the details are hazy. It might have been from a newspaper. I don’t know. I’ve probably made it mine in subtle ways in the intervening years. I share what I do with you below.

This evening’s dinner was really lazy. We both managed to work really late and were too hungry to think about cooking, despite having done an interesting meal plan. Luckily, the Big Guy had panic-bought a vegan bolognaise sauce, which we had with spaghetti. And a lot of extra chili flakes, to make it taste of something. In general, I want to avoid this kind of food. It had lentils in, but also a vegan mince/ ground beef replacement. We don’t eat food that processed normally, and I don’t want to start now. However, it has really got me thinking about my own version of a bolognaise sauce in which care is taken to layer similar flavour profiles as a meat bolognaise, without using facon or vegan ‘mince’. More on that soon.

Recipe: Harissa and Chickpea Soup

Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a starter
Prep 10 minutes
Cooking 10 minutes

The best harissa I can find

This soup could not be easier or faster, especially if you use tinned chickpeas. The harissa is the flavour in this dish, so get the best harissa you can find. I get mine from grocers that serve the Moroccan community, so I hope it’s authentic. It’s certainly complex: spicy, fruity and it has umami. You can also get rose harissa, which is further flavoured with rose petals and/or rosewater. You can also use rose harissa in this soup.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. I don’t usually cook with EV, but this will never get hot enough to reach smoking point, and it adds extra richness
1-2 onions, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped into roughly chickpea-sized dice
1 stick celery, diced
Salt to taste
Several cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced. I like garlic, so I used half a bulb (about 8 cloves) you can between 6-12, to taste. It should be quite garlic-forward
1-2 tbsp good quality harissa. You can use more, if you like
2 400g tins of chickpeas or 400g dry weight of chickpeas, cooked. In either case, you’re going to use the aquafaba/ liquid
Juice of about half a lemon

Method

Warm the extra virgin olive oil a medium saucepan on a gentle heat.

Add the onion, carrots and celery to the pan with a good pinch of salt. Sweat slowly until the onion is barely transluscent before adding the garlic and cooking for another couple of minutes. You want the garlic to permeate the olive oil, but not to brown.

Add the harissa paste. Try and slightly go over the amount you’re comfortable with because it is going to be needed in the final dish. However, it will depend on your tolerance for spice. Stir the paste into the mirepoix, and cook for a minute until the fragrance hits you.

Put the chickpeas and the liquid into the pan. The liquid, or aquafaba, acts as the stock in this case. I prefer to cook my own beans, and do a no-soak method in the pressure cooker, to which I can add aromats, which also helps.

Cover the pan, and cook on a medium heat until the chickpeas are warmed through. Add the juice of half a lemon. Taste for seasoning, you may want to add more lemon juice or a bit of salt, depening on whether the chickpeas were already salted when cooking.

Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

This soup is great with toppings. At various times I’ve served this with:

  • Lemon wedges for squeezing into the soup
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, mint, oregano
  • Green olives
  • Croutons
  • Hot sauce
  • Herb oils
  • Garlic bread – made by baking some bread in the oven , with olive oil and salt. When the bread is nicely toasted, rub a cut clove of garlic all over the face of the bread.

How to Store

This harissa and chickpea soup will store without toppings in the fridge for up to a week.
You could also freeze this soup, for up to three months. I have had the chickpeas break down a bit from the freezer, but not to a mush, there’s still plenty of texture.

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Veganuary Day 2: Veganising the Familiar

Enough Energy for a Workout

Tuesday is a workout day. I have a familiar routine to help me keep up with the habit. A light breakfast with protein, but no egg, walk the dog, then start my exercise regimen. It’s one of the few days I’ll have a sweet breakfast; I’m not normally a fan. Perhaps granola with yoghurt and fruit, or higher protein porridge. None of these are normally vegan.

Today, or rather yesterday, I went with overnight oats. We love this easy, versatile recipe – you can pretty much take your pick of fruit and pairings to make it flavourful. This one is chocolate and peanut butter. I veganised it by using soy yoghurt and almond milk. I was surprised at how sweet soy yoghurt is. My brand wasn’t sweetened, yet tasted like it had honey stirred through it. I’ve shared our tried and true recipe below. It’s very adaptable, so you can use whatever kind of dairy or non dairy you like.

Lunch was a simple (and if I’m honest, a little dull) celariac soup. I sweated some onion, leek, quite a lot of garlic and the celariac, before adding some of my sumptuous scrap stock. When the celariac was soft, we blitzed it smooth with my immersion blender. I served it with some chopped parsley and drizzles of a really good olive oil. It relied a bit too much on the peppery olive oil for interest. And there’s leftovers. Can’t wait!

Also over lunch, I decided to sign up to the Veganuary daily newsletter for the month. It’s actually a fantastic resource, with cookbooks, recipe ideas, meal plans, going vegan on a budget, and that’s just in the first couple of emails. I recommend giving it a shot, especially if you’re new to a vegan diet.

Our meal this evening was enchiladas – a pumpkin chili stuffed in a tortilla, wrapped and cooked in a hot enchilada sauce. I was introduced to enchiladas by an American friend. Her preferred way to cook these is as a casserole – layering the dish with the chili and the the tortillas like a TexMex lasagne. We currently don’t have an oven, so we’re cooking everything in our Ninja Foodi Max (this is not an affiliate link). Just for space reasons, we’re sticking with traditional enchiladas. I make this often, and serve it with lots of cheese and sour cream. Of course, now that’s not possible. Instead, it was topped with some oat milk yoghurt and a home made guacamole. The chili was from the freezer. No doubt, I’ll make it again soon and share the recipe with you all.

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Overnight Oats

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Soaking Time: minimum of 4 hours, but overnight is best

This recipe for overnight oats is so versatile, and is put together really quickly. Once you have the basic ratio of oats, liquid and yoghurt, you can change up the flavours with fresh, frozen or stewed fruit. You can change You can use your favourite kind of dairy, whether that be animal or plant-based. You could probably use ready-flavoured yoghurts too. I haven’t personally tried this, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work.

I’m accustomed to making this with cow’s milk and yoghurt. This time I tried it with soy yoghurt and almond milk, which is why it’s also missing my usual toppings of toasted unsalted peanuts and chocolate shavings – I wanted to really parse down on any potential differences with the texture and flavour. You could also use all oat-based dairy, but I find I crash really badly, and without warning if my breakfast is only oats with no additional protein. You can get around this by adding a couple of scoops of your favopurite protein powder.

This is also one of the few recipes that I measure by volume. This is another recipe where the ratio of ingredients is more important than precision.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened milk of your choice. You can use an actual tea cup or mug here if you like.
1/2 cup yoghurt of your choice
1 cup oats – I like the texture of rolled oats
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 – 1.5 tbsp maple syrup, to taste

Method

Mix together the milk and yoghurt, and stir until it’s all combined.

Stir through the oats, making sure they’re all coated with the wet ingredients

For this recipe, add the peanut butter and the cocoa powder and combine thoroughly.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Serving Suggestion

Enjoy the next morning hot or cold.

You can substitute for any other nut butter you like. or omit it altogether

You can use fruit instead of the cocoa powder.

Toppings of chopped nuts, more peanut butter, raw or stewed fruit would be a great choice.

How to Store

Overnight oats can be made up to five days in advance as part of your meal prep for the week. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

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Seven Peas

Seven Pea Pods
Seven Pea Pods


There’s an old military adage, which is frequently shortened to the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance. I had a very busy day doing the seven Ps in the garden in preparation for the year ahead.

In the kitchen, I went a bit more for an S and six Ps: Some Planning and Preparation…etc. I meal planned for part of the week. The Big Guy  did the shopping for the next day, so that we had something prepared. We’re on another lockdown in the Netherlands. Only food shops and pharmacies are open, and they must close at 8pm.

This evening, I prepared breakfast for tomorrow – admittedly a bit reluctantly. I was tired, and not looking forward to not being able to fall back on the very easy option of scrambled eggs in the morning.

However, this morning I’d been very kind to myself, by setting us up with an essential flavour-builder. An umami-rich and sumptuous vegetable stock. Of course, one that is just from food waste. There’s no point in using whole vegetables, when you can get just as much flavour out of the scraps.

Since my previous post on making stock from scraps, my technique has evolved a bit. The original scrap stock still has a place in my repertoire, especially if what I’m using it in has a more delicate flavour. These days, I do a little more prep before the scraps hit the freezer, because I slice everything up as thinly as possible to increase the surface area available for dispersing more flavour. You can do this when the scraps are frozen too, but doing it before you bag and freeze the scraps saves you a lot of time and painful fingers later.

Keep the peels slice the rest as thinly as you can manage before freezing

In 2020, I watched a lot of YouTube. I’m delighted to say that one discovery was Glen and Friends Cooking. Glen’s an experienced cook after my own heart. He loves to cook the classics with his own twist, as well as cook things entirely from scratch to learn how they work. He’s so inspiring with all of the experimentation he does in the kitchen. I really hope you have a look at his fantastic content.

He also inspired this new and improved stock from scraps. He makes an amazing stock, in which he thinly slices a wide array of whole vegetables using a mandoline, then roasts them hard before adding kombu, miso and tomato puree. If you’ve got the time and inclination, give this luxurious stock a go.

The kombu and the miso make so much difference in the flavour, lending essential umami, and a depth you won’t believe.

However, I’m  usually far too miserly to add whole vegetables, and too easily distracted to spend a day making stock. So I’ve developed a faster version you can make with scraps, still with such deep flavour, but with a quarter of the prep time, especially if the person you are today thinks about the person you’ll be when it comes time to make the stock, and pre-slices the big scraps as thinly as you can manage.

A rich and flavourful stock made from scraps and offcuts.
Tomato-based stock

Recipe: A Quick, Sumptuous Vegetable Stock from Scraps

I suppose this is more of a Freecipe than a recipe, strictly speaking, as the amounts are not exact. As Glen says in his video, it’s the ratio that’s important.

Ingredients

Over time fill a bag with vegetable scraps. If you’ve peeled them from the vegetable, there’s no need to cut them further. If it’s things you’ve topped and tailed, such as onion or carrot ‘ends’ or if it’s something that desperately needs using before it goes over then slice these bits as thinly as you can before freezing them. The contents will depend on what you’re eating. Because I frequently use a mirepoix in dishes, my bag always contains carrot and onion, often the odd celery end. Although there is usually an imbalance in the celery, since it has the least wastage naturally as you use it as an ingredient. So I do find myself thinly slicing a fresh rib or two before it goes in the pot. This is the only time I use the fresh, whole vegetable (but the whole head of celery never goes in).

Items that I don’t use

  • Potato Peel – the starch lends an odd texture to the finished stock
  • Cabbage – it’s too bitter in this application
  • Avocado

Essential Items

  • Onion ends and skins
  • Carrot peel and tops. You can include the greens, but make sure you’ve rinsed them extremely well
  • Leek tops – really, this gives it the most sumptuous mouth feel. Again, make sure they’re washed really well.
  • Celery
  • Mushroom scraps, stalks or ones that got too sweaty in the box
  • Kombu
  • Miso Paste
  • Bay leaf
  • Peppercorns
  • Dried Mushrooms – I’m lucky enough to usually have dried foraged mushrooms like chanterelles and porcini. You can also use dried shiitake or any other edible mushroom. You can often find a wide variety of dried mushrooms in Asian supermarkets
  • Tomato Puree/tomato paste- although I sometimes make a stock without, depending on my intentions for the stock. See method for more detail.

Other Scraps I use

Depending on the season and what I’m cooking

  • Almost any vegetable that is on the turn, especially if I don’t want it for soup. Not any part that is rotting or mouldy, of course
  • Very well scrubbed celariac nubs, leaves and skin
  • Squash and pumpkin ends, and the stringy stuff in between the seeds
  • Bell pepper offcuts – though never the seeds, or the part they come attached to
  • Beetroot ends – although a word of caution. I prefer chioggia and golden beets. You can use red beetroot for sure, but be aware that this will colour the stock, especially in large quantity. Fine if you’re eating a tomato based dish, less so in a white bean one, for example
  • Garlic that got a bit dessicated in the cupboard
  • Tomatoes – or when a recipe calls for deseeded tomatoes, you can add what’s left
  • Trimmings from topped and tailed French beans
  • The occassional pea pod, though I prefer to freeze these separately and use them for wine.
  • Sometimes apple peels and core make their way in, but this is the only sweet fruit that will be OK, and never in huge proportions of the scrap mix.
  • Aubergine ends – with the green calyx removed
  • Radishes that got long overlooked
  • Corn cobs and silk. Since these already have a pretty substantial surface area, and they’re really hard to chop, I usually chop corn cobs into three or four pieces, and not thin slices.
  • Herb stalks
  • Spinach stalks and ends
  • Swiss Chard stalks, if I haven’t eaten them as a side dish
  • Ginger peel
  • Spring onion scraps
  • The outer leaves and tough core of fennel
  • Reserved liquid from cooking beans – i.e aquafaba. I tend not to use aquafaba from cooking black beans, simply because it keeps some of the colour, and then it will make a black stock, and thus black food. You could also use the aquafaba from tinned beans just as readily.

So you can see broadly what I put in. You can use what you make scraps from. There are few hard and fast rules (apart from the three things I’ve listed above).

Method

Once your scrap bag is full, or you know you’re running out of stock, check the contents for balance. If the bag is light on celery, or you feel you’d like an additional element, slice some up thinly, to restore the balance. Also thinly slice any large lumps of scraps that past you didn’t get to.

Weigh the bag. You’ll need to calculate the weight of liquid to use. If I’m starting with aquafaba, I’ll often measure that, and make sure I have the right amount of scraps, or I’ll top up with water for the amount of scraps I already have.

The ratio needs to be 2:3 vegetable scraps to liquid. I’ve summarised this in two equations:


Liquid weight = 3 x (vegetable scraps /2)
Vegetable scraps = 2 x (liquid weight/3)

Heat about a tablespoon of any vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

In batches, add your scraps and sweat them off until they brown. You can do this from frozen. You can choose to add the whole bag at once, but I find you need to stir them more to prevent them catching on the bottom. In turn, this takes the browning process whole lot longer.

Once each batch has a good colour, remove to a separate bowl. You need to get a fairly deep caramel colour, particularly in the onion scraps.

Return all of the browned scraps to the pan. If you intend the stock to be used in tomato dishes, or ones where the colour of the finished dish will be deep, add 1-2 tbsp of tomato puree. Mix throuroughly into the scraps, then cook through on a medium heat, stirring well. The colour of the puree will darken slightly when it’s ready, and will take a minute or two. Omit this step if you want to use the stock in a lighter coloured dish; such as for a white soup, or a velouté sauce.

Pour in the cold liquid. Slowly bring to a vigorous simmer, but not to boiling point.

As it’s coming to temperature, add a strip of kombu, 1-2 tbsp miso paste, the dried mushrooms, 1-2 bay leaves, any other herbs you wish to add, and about a tbsp black peppercorns. Stir to make sure the miso has dissolved.

I never salt stock of any kind. You don’t know how much you’ll need to reduce the stock in the finished dish, or even to prepare it for freezing. You probably also don’t know what ingredients you’ll be using in your finished dish. Salting at this stage risks your dishes being over salted.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, then leave to putter away for about an hour or so.

When the liquid has taken on a deep colour, and you’re happy with the taste, drain the stock into a separate bowl. You may find that some types of scraps, especially lots of dried mushrooms, will absorb a fair bit of liquid. Feel free to press the scraps against the seive to get the scraps to release more liquid.

Discard the scraps, they’ve finally worked as hard for you as they can.

You can put this stock straight into a dish. Otherwise, allow it to cool before you store it in the fridge or prepare to freeze it.

Serving Suggestion

This wonderful, rich stock is great in soups, stews, gravies, to cook rice and grains in.
Use it wherever a recipe calls for stock, boullion, broth or even a stock cube.
Can also be used in lieu of a meat stock in many dishes.

How to Store

The stock will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days if you use aquafaba, or up to a week if you only used water. It freezes well as it is. I have a lot of competition for freezer space, so I often simmer the liquid after the scraps have been removed, to reduce it by half, then I freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the trays are frozen, I can remove the ‘stock cubes’ to a bag to store longer term.
This stock can be frozen for up to six months, although mine never lasts that long.

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WNWNW: The Imperiousness of the Imperial, or How Weights and Volumes Encourage Food Waste

Gluten Free Yoghurt Baked Cheesecake

How Do You Get Your Colleagues to Eat Food Waste? Make it Look Like Cake!

(c R. Devit 2014) 

I know that last week, I promised you a recipe, as penance for my confession that I had binned. And to some extent, you will get a guideline to produce a dish but it’s not going to be a traditional recipe. This is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. I often forget to measure amounts when I cook. It took real discipline to get into the habit when I started to publish recipes here. A formula for cookery is a good place to start if you are new to a particular cuisine, technique, or even to the kitchen. But, I find that sticking rigidly to recipes can be limiting when you want to try something new, and especially when using up the contents of your fridge.

Since I decided to launch WNWNW (AKA Waste Not Want Not Wednesday), I have also been trying to reconcile the fact that bunging a bit of this and that into something doesn’t really lend itself to recipe writing in its most common form, but is the best way to use up what you have. In a very timely way, Annie, at Kitchen Counter Culture, posted about how recipes are the antithesis of food waste, since they require exact amounts. She wants to empower people to approach cookery in a freer way. I think this is what cookery really is all about. Let joy (and cooking) be unconfined!

I have always been a visual cook – I start with a picture in my head, and the closer I can get to the picture, the better it works out. Then I rely on taste, and usually don’t measure anything. Cooking with the senses, rather than being bound by weights and measures. I have the confidence to do this, partly because I know what stuff goes together, but mostly through experience. The Big Guy too has learned that mushrooms, bacon, tomato, anchovies and capers should not all  appear in the same pasta sauce, but not before we had to munch our way through his salty, tangy, tomato sour creation (of course, we weren’t going to throw it away!). I hope that this series will encourage people to just try stuff. I learned that dill and mandarin are the perfect foil quite by accident, and I’m sure many of us have similarly brilliant discoveries through a make-do-and-mend way with recipes, and a suck-it-and-see attitude to trying new combinations.

So, for WNWNW, there will be no recipes with amounts and measures. Instead, I’d like to present something a lot more freehand, into which I have bunged a bit of this and a bit of that. A “freecipe”, if you will, that liberates us to chuck stuff in, and gives us permission to omit ingredients that we don’t like, or have. I’ll give a few alternative ingredients, and if you try it or similar, please also feel free to let me know what you used or substituted as well. After all, the best way to use up what you have it to use a basic technique, and ad lib a bit. Or a lot. Depending on what you find in the back of your fridge.

This week; an easy freecipe, made from a mountain of yoghurt from work that was past its sell by date, I am happy to chance it, but my more cautious colleagues would probably have thrown it out. I got around this by making it look like something else entirely. And a bonus is that this recipe is gluten-free. The only thing that I had to buy was the rice flour, but you can just as well use plain. And you can top it with any thing you like, or not at all.

Freecipe: Baked Gluten Free Yoghurt Cheesecake

For the Base:

Some nuts (I used almost half a 250 g packet of almonds. pretty much any unsalted nut will be fine)

Some cold butter (about a quarter of a pat), cubed

Some rice flour (a little less in volume than the nuts, other flours if you prefer)

Couple of tbsp demerara sugar (or granulated white)

For the cheesecake:

Some yoghurt (I used most of a 500 ml tub of plain greek yoghurt. I expect that flavoured yoghurt will also work)

Some cream cheese (also most of a tub. Most recipes say to use much more, but the eggs will set it anyway)

Some eggs (I decided upon 3, but adjust to make a thick custardy texture, depending on how much cream cheese and how thick your yoghurt is)

Some Rice Flour (a couple of tbsp, also to add to the consistency, but not so much that it tastes of flour. Again, the choice of flour is yours)

Some sugar (depending what additions you are using and if they are sweet, taste the mix)

Other additions: citrus zest (I always have some in the freezer), citrus juice, cocoa powder (cut back on the flour), dried fruit, fresh berries, chocolate chips, rum soaked raisins, cold espresso, earl grey tea, flavours you like.

Toppings to choose from: frozen berries, chocolate curls, fresh fruit, coffee beans, candied citrus, candied flowers, whatever you fancy

Method: 

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a springform cake tin with baking paper (or use a loose bottomed one, but also line the outside with tin foil to prevent leaks)

Whizz up the nuts in a food processor, until they are as fine as you like them.

Rub the rice flour and the butter in, until you have a rough breadcrumb texture. Add a little more butter or rice flour until you get it right. Stir in the nuts and the sugar.

Pour the base into the tin, and press with the back of a spoon to compact it and to cover all of the tin. Go up the sides, if you like.

Bake the base for about 15 minutes, or until it is a golden brown colour. Exact times will depend on the nuts you use. Set aside to cool.

To make the cheesecake mix together the yoghurt, cream cheese, eggs, rice flour and sugar. Beat to a smooth batter, about the consistency of thick custard. Add any of the flavourings and mix well.

Pour the cheesecake onto the base and put into the oven for 35-40 mins, or until there is still a slight wobble to the cheesecake. Allow to cool.

Top it with anything you like. Or leave it plain!

 

 

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A Fine Farewell, or Chocolate Cake for Many Celebrations

image

Don’t worry, today’s post is not one in the gourmet camping series! Although it is probably possible, cooking a light and airy cake over a barbecue is well beyond my ken!

I made this cake for a leaving party for a friend from work. Knowing that I would be away at Easter, I have kept this post for now to share. It was a fitting farewell cake, but you can easily dress this with buttercream and mini eggs to make a lovely cake for Easter, or any springtide celebration.

This cake also made the most of some extra buttermilk I had in the fridge, after making pancakes. I don’t use buttermilk much, so it would have gone to waste, but actually, this makes for a lovely moist cake, but that isn’t too sweet. Despite the amount of desserts and custards I have posted on ediblethings, I don’t have a sweet tooth. I prefer fruity desserts over chocolate ones, but there are times when only a chocolate cake will do. And if you are like me, then this is the chocolate cake for you.

I am also not the biggest fan of buttercream, so I used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to decorate the cake. In the Netherlands, they have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, or lunch on bread,  but they are just as good on a cake.

If you wanted to indulge a bit more, you could make a chocolate ganache, adorn the cake with jelly orange and lemon slices (the kind that always appear at Christmas), or even make your own chocolate truffles, and chocolate shavings to go over the ganache.

If you prefer fruit, make the ganache, or a chocolate buttercream and then cover the cake in raspberries or cherries. It’s your celebration, after all!

However you choose to decorate it, this is the perfect celebration cake. And what better way to celebrate anything at springtime than with chocolate? So, I am sending a very Happy Easter, and all other spring and rebirth festivals to you all!

Recipe: Chocolate Celebration Cake

This recipe is enough for two cakes to use as a sandwich. Of course, you can halve the recipe if you only want one tier, but that isn’t too celebratory, is it now?

Ingredients

For the cakes:
250 g butter
400 g plain flour
100 g cocoa
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g raw sugar or 420 g caster sugar
450 ml buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

To make the sandwich:
2 tbsp of fruit preserve – I used pink grapefruit curd, but a jam would work as well
250 ml double cream, whipped until stiff
Chocolate sprinkles to cover

Method

Grease two 20 cm cake tins. For some reason, my two allegedly 20 cm cake tins are 19 and 21 cm respectively, which goes to show you that you should buy your cake tins as pairs from the same place, but never mind. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper. If you only have shallow tins, line the sides, and allow the paper to extend a fair bit over the tin. These cakes rise quite a lot.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool.

The only time you will hear me extolling the virtues of sifting anything is when cocoa is involved. Obviously, this is one of those times. While you are at it, bung the flour and bicarb through the seive too. Make sure they ennd up in your largest mixing bowl.

Add the sugar to the mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Make a small well in the floury stuff in the bowl.

Combine the melted butter, buttermilk, beaten egg, and the vanilla in a measuring jug. Pour this into the well you just made, and whisk in with an electric hand whisk, until the batter is creamy and smooth.

Divide the batter between the two cake tins and put them in the oven for 45 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. You may need to swap the two cakes on their respective shelves with about 10 minutes cooking time left, to ensure even cooking.

Remove from the oven and leave aside in the tins until it won’t completely burn you when you handle it. Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cold, place one cake flat side up on a serving plate, and spread over the preserve evenly. Cover this with a third of the cream, the sandwich the two cakes together, flat side to flat side.

Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream, and then sprinkle over the sprinkles.

Best served to celebrate – even the fact that it is Saturday.

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Generosity and the Art of Gourmet Camping

Campervan in Mackay Creek DOC Campsite, Fiordland, NZ

Camping Kitchen

As you saw from my last post, the Big Guy and I are in New Zealand. I have to tell you, it is spectacular here, although I was very surprised to find that some of the foraging is pretty similar. It’s autumn, and the trees are groaning with rowan, elder, apples, and the fattest haw berries I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t expecting these plants to be so similar, given how far away it is. I also bought a Forager’s Treasury by Johanna Knox  and on looking through, most of the wild edibles are very familiar from a Northern European perspective. Luckily, it seems that most of the poisonous plants are also the same, which is handy.

We have also been bowled over by the people here. Everyone has been friendly, welcoming and have gone a little out of their way to be helpful. The lady in the supermarket told us how to get the best bargains, and went the extra mile to find out where we might buy harissa. The petrol station attendant caught us up on the international news and gave us a free cookie each.

New Zealand Trout

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch (And Dinner, And Breakfast)!

But by far the nicest thing that anyone has done to date is the fisherman we got talking to. We have a campervan, but in our first days here, we got caught out by jetlag, and simply could not drive onto our intended destination, so we had to book into a motel en route. As is common here, the gentleman in question was friendly and chatty, and we got talking with him over breakfast. It turned out that his parents were both Dutch, so we chatted about the differences in life here and at home. As we were leaving, he tapped on our window and offered us one of his catch. We were stunned, but he very kindly kicked off the gourmet element of our trip with a fresh trout. He had three fresh, and two that were being smoked in a local smokehouse, and he was heading out that day to get some more. This was no small fry, either. He gave us the smallest of his catch, but it still weighed in at just under 3 kg. It really was beautiful.

I spent the entire day thinking about how I was going to cook that trout. My foraging book was helpful, because it mentioned that wood sorrel can also be found here. So, I planned to look for some, and make a cream and sorrel sauce to go with the trout. Unfortunately, where we had chosen to stop for the night, on our way to Milford Sound, offered up no wood sorrel. We had chosen it specifically because we could barbecue there.

Trout and Spring Onion Omelette, with Campers Mayonnaisse

Breakfast, Not at Tiffany’s

Luckily, I had a back up, because I had the foresight to buy some dill when I stopped at a shop for potatoes. So, a plan was born, for a gourmet meal, made with basic equipment, to be served under the Southern stars. We have eaten many gourmet campsite meals since; including succulent lemon and pepper lamb, venison and mushrooms, and even shakshuka for breakfast. But that trout, which served us three hearty meals, plus a little more to pick at was the nicest.

Outdoor Natural Winecooler

Camping Cooler

The first night, we barbecued the trout and served it with a green salad with mayonnaise. Served with a nice local Riesling, that we had cooled down naturally. The the leftovers kept nicely in a couple of ziplock bags in the cool box (which also had a big bag of ice), and made excellent omelette, and went nicely with pasta in a creamy sauce, with more dill.

You can’t get more gourmet, or more generous than that. Thank you very much, kind stranger!

Campsite Trout, Mayonnaise, potatoes  and green salad

Campsite Trout

Recipe: Campsite Trout

Ingredients

1 large trout or salmon

Dill fronds

Lemon slices

2 egg yolks

Juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste

About a quarter of a small bottle of plain oil

Salt and pepper to taste

15 g fennel, finely chopped (I had to do mine with scissors, due to the very blunt knives I was dealing with)

Method

Barbecued Trout

Gourmet Stay

Wash the trout and pat it dry with kitchen towel. Season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper, and put the dill and lemon slices inside. Barbecue for about 40 minutes on a camp barbecue that is too high off the coals. If you are doing it on the barbecue at home, then you can put the fish closer to the heat source, and so it will take less time. Turn once during cooking, so it cooks well throughout.

Campsite Sauce Equipment

Basic Sauce Equipment

I have previously only made mayonnaise with a balloon whisk, so I was worried the fork would take ages. Now I’m sure this won’t work if you are trying to whisk egg whites for meringue, but the simple fork makes surprisingly speedy mayonnaise.

Whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolks and a little salt. Gradually add the oil. My tip is to add a little, then make sure it is thoroughly whisked into the egg before adding more. This way, the mayonnaise is less likely to split.

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Once the mayonnaise is thick and glossy, taste it. You may need to adjust for seasoning, and possibly add more lemon juice to get the right balance of flavours.

Finally, chop up the dill. As I said, I resorted to some scissors, because the knives I had were less than sharp, but you chop yours however you like. Add it to the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve the fish with a nice green salad, some simply boiled potatoes and a lot of the mayonnaise. Best served under the stars, but this is still good, even if you are forced inside by the weather.

 

 

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